Tasmania Disability Education Reform Lobby joins Labor to raise more concerns over Northern Support School refurbishment

Concerns: Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby founder Kristen Desmond speaking on the Ravenswood Northern Support School refurbishment. Picture: Scott Gelston
Concerns: Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby founder Kristen Desmond speaking on the Ravenswood Northern Support School refurbishment. Picture: Scott Gelston

Further allegations that the Northern Support School in Ravenswood is ‘not fit for purpose’ have been put forward by Labor and the Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby.

The Northern Support School is being refurbished by the state government to provide a Centre of Excellence for students with a disability or special needs, at a cost of $7.9 million.

Opposition Education spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne joined Ms Desmond on Sunday to provide further examples of what they believe to be safety issues at the school, including roof-mounted heaters that are easily accessible by standing students.

A government spokesperson said the project “is being developed in accordance with national standards and in consultation with key stakeholders”.

“It's extremely disappointing that Labor are trying to play cheap, negative politics with it,” the spokesperson said.

Lobby group founder Kristen Desmond said the lobby “does not take lightly” their allegations of building safety issues.

She said the lobby had always welcomed the school’s construction and “attempted to work” with the state government from the beginning of the refurbishment to highlight their concerns.

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“We really do believe that there is a health and safety risk,” Ms Desmond said.

Ms Desmond said another issue was the small size of unisex ambulant toilets with doors opening inwards, saying it was potentially a safety issue should a child need assistance.

“We had a number of conversations with the Minister in relation to [student toilets],” she said.

“Not only are we uncomfortable at the moment that they’re unisex toilets next to each other, the doors open inwards and there’s very little space between the toilet bowl and the swing of the door.”

A Department of Education spokesperson said on Friday that “the building meets the National Building code, including disabled provisions, and this includes wheel chair access and disabled pathways”.

Ms O’Byrne called for an independent safety audit of the building.

“We have toilets both disabled and ambulant that aren’t capable to cater for the students’ needs, we’ve got heaters that are exposed that children can reach in the hallways … it’s simply not good enough,” she said.